April 8, 2017

State announces a chile license plate

Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill to create a speciality chile license plate—but chile lovers will still be able to get a license plate featuring chile without the extra cost of a specialty plate.

The new black license plate says in yellow lettering “Chile capital of the world” and has yellow license plate numbers. It also features a green chile pepper in front of a red chile pepper.

“With the creation of this license plate, we are sending a strong message that New Mexico is the only chile capital of the world,” Gov. Martinez said in announcing the new license plate. “Not only does chile play a significant role in our state’s culture – it is one of our state’s greatest treasures, and this license plate will let the world know.”

This came after Martinez vetoed legislation that would have created a specialty chile license plate whose funds would have went to educational programs with the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.

The specialty plate would have cost $35.

“However, such a plate should be made available to all New Mexicans at no additional cost,” Martinez wrote in her veto message. “That is why I have directed the Tourism Department to work with the Motor Vehicle Division to create a standard chile license plate that represents something that truly makes New Mexico true—our chile, with no additional fees.”

To switch to the new plate would cost $17 in person or $7.25 online. But drivers who currently have a specialty plate can switch to the chile plate at no additional cost.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, praised the creation of the new license plate.

“I’m proud that New Mexico’s chile is the best in the world and that our state has been a leader in chile production for hundreds of years,” Brown said. “The creation of this license plate reflects New Mexico’s unique connection to chile and its importance to our culture and economy.”

Legislators urged a rush on a green chile license plate because of some competition from Colorado, which frequently attempts to claim green chile as its own.

In a House committee hearing, Brown told her colleagues the race was on.

New Mexico is the state that provides the most chile, with thousands of acres compared to the less-than 500 acres by Colorado.

New Mexico also makes sure that chile grown in New Mexico is correctly labeled as such.

The New Mexico Chile Advertising Act became law in 2011. The law makes it illegal for anyone to advertise or sell non-New Mexico grown chile as New Mexico chile. The law was expanded two years later to make sure any chile not grown in New Mexico was labeled with “Not grown in New Mexico” in a bold typeface.

New Mexico also has a Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail to promote restaurants throughout the state that serve the iconic burger. It is operated through the state Tourism Department.

In veto messages, Martinez frequently criticized legislators for “debating things like holiday songs about tamales and posole,” as she did when vetoing a bill moving severance tax bonds to a fund for school projects. A bill naming the green chile cheeseburger as the state burger, which did not pass the Senate, was also a frequent topic of criticism by the governor and Republicans.

Martinez refrained from any of these comments on the Carlsbad Republican’s bill, even while vetoing it.

The Colorado green chile license plate bill, meanwhile, stalled in the state’s Senate.